Do marriage and cohabitation change people?

It’s the sort of dismissive comment I hear often.

Correlation does not imply causation. Yes, married families tend to do better. But it’s not marriage that makes the difference but the kind of people who marry.”

Let’s leave aside the flaws in the logic, that correlation does not rule out causation, that couples who do better don’t need to marry (yet most do).

Let’s overlook the research suggesting how background factors that might select a certain type of person into marriage rarely account for most, let alone all, of the differences between married and other family types.

Let’s simply focus on the causal mechanism. What might it be about marriage – and cohabitation – that could possibly make people behave differently?

Two key words cover the most plausible explanations. Decision and inertia.

Decision. When we make a decision about something, it helps us to feel a whole lot more confident…

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